I am thrilled to have my daughter, Jennifer Cook guest post today and have artwork/graphics provided by her daughter Abby:
Just a few days ago, we all looked at our calendars and turned the page to a new month. But this is no ordinary month. After all its December, 31 days long, and with a sigh, we seem to ask the obvious, repeated questions. Is it Christmas time again so soon? Are we already looking at a New Year? With stores displaying Christmas décor the first week in October, Christmas music playing in November, Pinterest Christmas pins, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, this month of 31 days feels like a frenzied 310, and we never have enough time to get everything done! Is it just me, or does this just not feel right? Does all this frenzy create the Christmas spirit? Why even celebrate when the world & culture around us do not even want to hear the words “Merry Christmas”? What’s happened to the simple Christmas holidays of old? I’ve heard those questions and the sentiment they invoke come not only from my own heart, but many others as well. In quiet and tired moments, my distracted thoughts seek an answer.
The tradition of both giving and receiving Christmas cards began in Europe in the mid-1800’s as a way to use the newly created postal service. Here in the United States, Christmas cards caught on as a seasonal tradition in 1915, when John C. Hall and his two brothers started a company called Hallmark Cards. Now in the year 2014, this tradition seems almost outdated, what with email, text messages, Facebook posts and Instagram. Why send a card in the mail when we all live virtually, via posts and pictures? I whisper the question, “Family, are we sending out Christmas cards this year?” The whisper becomes a panicked cry when I get no response from the family, and I am left to make the decision. Where should we take the picture for the card? Should we wear matching outfits, coordinated colors, casual or formal? Do we use Costco, Shutterfly, or just Walgreens for the printing? Do we need to include a letter? Can we cut down the list this year? The chaos in my mind created over Christmas cards does nothing to improve my attitude or outlook on the holiday, and again leaves me wondering if this once simple tradition should still be a part of my to-do list. But this is the year, I think to myself, the year of the stellar Christmas card that will be everyone’s favorite, and I shirk at my own prideful thoughts.
Truth be told, I have a dear friend whose card every year is my favorite, the one I can’t wait to receive. Her cards are always special, beautifully created with photos that show her favorite family memories from throughout the year. The beauty of her card never gave off an air of pride, rather, it displayed the Light in her life, and how her family shared in that Light. Sadly this year, her card won’t be in our mail box. The Lord called her home this past spring, where she spends her days in beauty and Light, in worship of our Savior.
My thoughts keep returning to how much I will miss her card this year, and the beauty it brought to my heart. In my sadness, my distracted thoughts were given a gift of Light from my Abby, and the beauty she created with a pencil and paper.
It is her drawing that I used for our Christmas card this year. Asked to depict the meaning of Christmas, she sat down on a dreary November afternoon with her pencil and paper, and drew the familiar manager scene. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” No panicked need for perfection, she quietly sat and sought what was in her heart. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” A few eraser marks, a thoughtful pause or two, and her depiction began to take shape. “For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.”
I knew right away that this would be our Christmas card. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” We are surrounded these days by so many who are mourning loved ones, battling discouragement and despair, fighting a disease, or just too frenzied by life to find much joy in the everyday, much less the Christmas holiday. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The light is surely dim for most of our world and often feels dim in our own hearts. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light.”
Yes, even today as I write this, I am in a bit of chaos and panic. My to-do lists have lists, and the fleeting days of December are sure to be both exhausting and exciting. But I keep looking at Abby’s picture, and ask, “Is my heart light dim, or is it shining for Him?” That precious babe born in the humble stable is the Light of the World, the only one who can take my darkness away and give me Light. “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” No more death, no more disease, no more depression, and no more despair!
This is what we celebrate at Christmas, this is the reason for the season, this is an everlasting beauty that could never be captured on a Christmas card. “In the same way let your Light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And so I say, Merry Christmas, with our love, and let your Light shine in the New Year.